A creditor, who has lost patience with a debtor, may bring in a debt collector to assist him in collecting the money due. Debt collectors have a legal right to contact a debtor or an agent for the debtor acting under a financial power of attorney. Once the debtor dies, however, both these options are foreclosed.
Financial Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document under which a person termed a principal gives someone authority to make financial or medical decisions in his place. The authority of the agent is described in the document. It can be limited, like the authority to sell the principal's car, or general, giving the agent the power to take any action the principal could take himself.
Read More: Power of Attorney Rules
Durable Power of Attorney
Generally, powers of attorney expire if the principal becomes incapacitated. However, a durable power of attorney gives the agent authority to act even after the principal becomes incapacitated. All powers of attorney, however, expire at the death of the principal.
If a debtor dies, a creditor cannot sue the debtor's agent under a power of attorney, since the document expired at the principal's death. Instead, he may present a claim against the debtor's estate in probate court.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.